One Man’s Early Thirties: A Brief Lamentation
Though Christmas and New Year's are what you remember,
For me, there's a separate event in December,
It's not decked in holly, there's no "Auld Lang Syne",
It comes in with a whimper each Twelve Twenty-Nine,
It's a day, to the world, that's just like any other,
Yet at least for me (and, of course, my twin brother),
It's a date that's resplendent with something like "worth"...
You've assumed, I assume, it's the date of my birth.
And though every birthday brings with it its blessings,
Of late, it's a date that I've seen as "distressing",
For each year that passes (and there have been plenty—
I'm closer to forty than I am to twenty...)
Brings with it its questions—all big, existential:
"What is it I've done? Have I reached my potential?"
"Are there songs to be written? Or concerts to play?"
"Am I on borrowed time before my hair goes gray?"
"Is my eyesight going? Are these bags getting darker?"
"Can I still pull off these thick-rimmed Warby Parkers?"
And thus I present (to my ego's deflation):
"One Man's Early Thirties: A Brief Lamentation"
Your teen years are youthful, and truthful, and crushing,
You're twenty? You're gorgeous! You're brilliant! You're gushing!
Yet hit thirty-one, and those years of insanity
Start to give way to what feels like "mundanity"...
You've traded: "I'm terrified of global warming..."
For: "I hope my Roth IRA is performing..."
You're hearing new bands that you don't really mind...
...you just wish that they sounded more like "Third Eye Blind"...
You'll still go out drinking whenever your friends say...
...but now you're hung-over the following Wednesday...
You're starting to notice the way that you dress,
Is less "Project Runway", and more "Meet The Press",
And if you can quote any lyrics by "Phish",
Then you're not young, my friend—at your best, you're young-ish.
Which is, of course, fine; I don't mean to sound bitter,
I don't need to Snapchat; I barely use Twitter,
I don't wax nostalgic; I'm not Peter Pan...
It's just that, by thirty... you should be a man!
A man with successes, a man with a story!
A man who has triumphed, or blazed out in glory!
And sure, I'm accomplished, and not without skills,
(I own an apartment, I pay my own bills...)
It's just that my story, considered in context,
Could probably be written in "comic-sans" font text:
(A bit underwhelming, a bit uninspired,
You wonder if maybe the author was tired...)
Though I'm of course grateful, and count every blessing,
At thirty-two years you just start second-guessing
The kind of decisions that lead to a life
Where you've seen every episode of "The Good Wife",
That self-doubting devil that lives on your shoulder
Gets louder with each year that you get one older:
"I've got a good job, I'm not living in squalor..."
(At thirty Bill Gates was worth one billion dollars!)
"I'm happily married, and that's enough, maybe..."
(According to Facebook you should have a baby!)
"I've written this poem—I've found some good rhymes..."
(Do you really think that's the best use of your time?)
"I've published some essays—those might make me famous..."
(Oh really, Beyoncé? Can you go last nameless?)
"Last week I helped my Zog Sports kickball team win..."
(At thirty-three Jesus Christ died for your sins!)
With each year that passes I'm finding it harder
To think that I'll die as a spiritual martyr...
So what's there to do once you hit thirty-four?
Just pull down the curtains and bolt shut the door?
Just throw on some sweat pants and eat frozen dinners?
Just watch "Wheel of Fortune" and curse out the winners?
Spend more and more time in some sad online fight
With a stranger whose politics scream out "alt-right"?
I'm in my young thirties—please emphasis young!
My book is unwritten! My song is unsung!
There's more to accomplish! There's more I desire!
There's more to experience, taste, and acquire!
I need to believe it's essentially truth
That I haven't abandoned the promise of youth!
And thus each December, I have a tradition,
(And note that this is a begrudging admission...)
To open up Facebook, and casually look
For some names that I've picked from my high school yearbook,
To see how they're doing (though I know the answer...
Janine's occupation's still listed as "dancer"...)
And though it's sadistic, it just doesn't fail,
When I read that Jeff Bilker has gone back to jail,
To fill me with something akin to elation,
(As I think of Jeff and his incarceration...)
To realize that my life just isn't that hard,
(I'll never get stabbed with a shank in the yard),
And sure, there are days where I may not feel "whole",
(But that beats swinging bottom-side-up from a pole!)
And suddenly life seems a lot less depressing,
Any my early thirties a lot less distressing,
There's no sense of angst towards the year that's ahead,
(Although I should note that I've placed in its stead:
A crippling anxiety I'm sure to find
Waiting right round the corner, past age thirty-nine...)